Monday, August 13, 2012

An Early Learning Space -- for a tiny budget and tiny space!

So, I figured something out this past school year -- little learners need a space of their own!  I know, I know, this is obvious.  Everyone knows this.  What am I, a rookie???  But, in my defense, let me say that I basically thought our whole house was set up for little ones, so we were all set.  It seems that, unnoticed by me, my oldest two children grew up a lot this year, and the household organization is starting to be more and more geared towards their needs.  They needed desks to work on their schoolwork.  They needed a new bookshelf to hold the multitude of books we needed for homeschooling them.  And, in the shuffle, the preschoolers didn't end up with a space that was set up for them anymore. 

Since the new school year starts in only two more weeks, I have been busy setting up a space for our 3 year old that will be all her own.  She calls it her "learning space" and is very excited about it.  And we did it with almost no space and a very tiny budget.  In the picture above you can see it is a pretty compact little space, carved out of the master bedroom.  (That's right -- my bedroom now doubles as a classroom, as well as a sewing room.  On the positive side, there is no longer a train table in my bedroom, as we moved that to the basement.)

We were lucky to find a child desk and chair set very cheap ($20) at a school closing sale.  We now own 3 school desks.  The others I have found at thrift stores for $5 or $10.  They seem to have them regularly.  I used mounting tape to attach dollar store hooks (the over the door kind) on the underside.  With the addition of a dowel (less than a dollar in cost at craft stores), it makes a paper dispenser.  I did spend something like $7 on the roll of paper, though!  If you know where to get cheap rolled paper, please let me know.
I got the red organizer at Target in the dollar section at the front of the store.  I filled it with supplies that we already had scattered around the house -- markers, glue, tape, child scissors, crayons, and watercolor paints.  I stock up on these essentials every August during back-to-school sales.

On either side of the desk, I put a crate with a dividing shelf.  I spent about $25 on these two crates plus the dividing shelves from Target in their back-to-school sales.  These are Itso brand.  You can find cheaper crates, but I have been unhappy with the way cheaper ones hold up sometimes.  Plus, since it is my bedroom, I wanted something neutral colored rather than bright pink!

On the shelves, you can see dollar store cookie sheets.  They are empty right now because we haven't started our school year.  But during the school year, I will put 4 activities out each week (one on each cookie sheet).  I will use Montessori style activities, like you can find at Counting Coconuts.  Many Montessori enthusiasts use plastic trays, but cookie sheets from the dollar store are cheaper and easier to come by!

My 8 year old daughter, Hannah, sewed the chair cover for her little sister.  The pocket is Sarah's favorite part.  She stores all sorts of goodies and prize possessions in there (like this scrap of fabric).

And lastly, we moved a basket of some of our favorite board books in there, too.  There is nothing Sarah likes more than a bunch of books!

So, all in all, we are using just a little bit of space between the two dressers in our bedroom, and our total cost was around $50 (not including the expensive paper!) for our dedicated learning space for our preschooler.  I think this will really help this coming year, and she is super excited about starting up homeschool preschool again this fall.

P.S. Do you see the posters in the background? Those are materials from Funshine Express preschool curriculum.  Look for a post soon featuring the September Fireflies Kit from Funshine Express. 

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